Book Review | Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington | Quarterly Literary Box

The Quarterly Literary Box comes quarterly (imagine that!) and costs $49 per quarter if you purchase one-box-at-a-time or less if you pre-pay for the year.

Each box includes an annotated new release (complete with hand-written notes) and two more books the author of the first book chose – plus “delightful bookish goods.” I can’t attest to the “delightful bookish goods” since I haven’t actually gotten my first box yet – though I do know that it includes The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker, which I’m pretty excited about.

No, this review is only of Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington, which I received as a free gift for signing up for a yearly subscription. Actually, that’s a lie – I got it as a free gift because I tricked Quarterly into thinking I was buying the yearly subscription as a gift, which comes with a free book for the giver. I just happen to be both giver and receiver, don’t tell!

First of all, the annotations in this book were fantastic.


My cat Gristle didn’t seem to agree.

They weren’t often enough that I got tired of moving the stickies to read the notes, but there were quite a few of them. It seems Tarkington is a bit of a music nerd, because many of the notes explained why he chose the bands / albums / songs that were discussed in the book. I’d assumed the annotations would be a little gimmicky and something I mostly ignored but I ended up finding them very charming.

On to the book itself. This is a solid coming-of-age in the ’70s story, complete with confusing sexual situations, inappropriate crushes, and scandalous behavior like underage drinking and smoking, oh my! But it’s also a murder mystery. And a really sad story of one slice of one family, but sad in that way that feels familiar, or at least it did to me.

Rating: 8/10

Recommended for:  Music references; excellent character development; unique characters; coming-of-age nostalgia.

Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace testNope. There are several women in the story (mother, love interest, dead sister, etc.) but none of them ever spoke to each other and their characters primarily existed to further the story of the men.

Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: Nope, nope, nope, nope.



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